Sometimes it's hard to get to the doctor's office. Maybe you can't take off work or your child can't take off school. Your pediatrician's office might offer a visit through a video call or a phone call instead. This is called "telehealth."
Here's what you should know about telehealth care for kids.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports telehealth for doctors' visits, especially when you can't meet face-to-face. It's best to use telehealth within your child's medical home. Think of this as the "home base" for your pediatric health care team. Telehealth won't replace in-person visits, but it could be an option for some visits or just to share information with your doctor. There are benefits like:
Cuts out travel time
Saves on transportation costs
Spend less time in the waiting room
Access to specialists in large hospitals or another town
Your pediatrician might visit with your child using telehealth first and then schedule an in-person visit later. Or you could have a quick follow-up by telehealth after a recent visit to the office. You might start a telehealth visit with a sick child, and your doctor might tell you it's best to come in the office instead.
It's up to you and the doctor
It's OK if you aren't sure or if you decide telehealth isn't right for your child. You may not have internet or a cell phone. It might be hard to find a private place to meet. You can always talk with your child's doctor about making an in-person visit. They like to see you either way!
Talk about whether you, your child and your doctor are comfortable with telehealth. If you all agree to try it, then you can plan for a visit.
Your pediatrician might use telehealth for:
A worry you have about your child
Cold symptoms like a runny nose
Vomiting and diarrhea
Prescription medicine refill
Rash or skin problem
Mental or emotional health concerns
Some appointments should be in-person, including:
How does telehealth work?
Your pediatrician's office is the starting point for all telehealth visits. They know your child and they know your family. If you need an interpreter or assistance for vision, hearing or speech difficulties, let them know when you schedule your appointment. Insurance might cover telehealth. Check your plan and check with your doctor's office first.
During a video visit, your pediatrician can see your child and decide how to treat them. They might prescribe medicine or other treatments. If your child is older, they can meet one-on-one with the doctor at a point in the visit.
Prepare for Your Child's Visit in 5 Easy Steps
STEP 1: Call your pediatrician to see if they offer telehealth options.
STEP 2: Follow their instructions to schedule the appointment. Make sure they have your current contact and emergency information.
STEP 3: Gather information, make notes of your questions and complete paperwork. This is the same as if you were going into the office.
STEP 4: Confirm the appointment time and instructions from your doctor 24 hours before your visit. Follow their instructions to:
Test the camera, microphone, and speakers on the device you'll be using for the visit
Test software and links or download any apps you might need at least one hour before your appointment
Test tools if your child uses hearing or vision assistance
STEP 5: Choose as quiet a room as possible with some privacy away from people.
Remember: Don't hesitate to call the office if you run into trouble!
Other ways to prepare
When you're ready for your appointment, make sure there is good lighting in the room like from a window or lamp. Turn off the TV and radio. If your child is little, it's ok to have a toy or book nearby to keep them busy during the visit.
You can sit beside your child during the video visit or have them in your lap. If your visit is by phone, have them near you so you can ask questions. They can talk with the doctor too. You will have time to describe your child's symptoms.
Is it safe?
Telehealth visits use software that works with a computer or a phone. Your doctor will let you know what tools they like to use. You might be able to use email through their patient website. They might offer text reminders about your appointment.
Whatever tools your doctor's office uses, they will make sure the visit is safe. Video software is protected by security. They don't share your information without your OK. What happens between your child, their doctor and you is private like it is when you visit in person.
Here to stay
Pediatricians and pediatric specialists began using telehealth more often during the
COVID-19 pandemic when in-person visits weren't possible. The convenience and benefits of these visits means telehealth is likely here to stay. Don't delay–call your pediatrician's office to find out if they offer telehealth visits for your child and how to get started!
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This resource is supported
by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an
award totaling $6,000,000 with no
percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.